We’re well into that season. Note the flags — UF, FSU, USF, Auburn, Georgia, LSU — flying from porches. Notice how many conversations begin with the less-than-grammatical, rhetorical question: “How ‘bout them ...?”
We really are the South each fall.
But college football season is a double-edged sword. When your team is on a roll, your step is a bit livelier, your small talk more animated. When your team is on a downward spiral, your job is more taxing, your take on politics more cynical. Plus, the sports page morphs into a taunting antagonist.
That said, I’m a USF alum and fan. Win or lose, the Bulls have impact. Frustrating losses. Encouraging wins. Celebratory, post-game arrests.
It’s almost enough to distract us from focusing on what else is going on with the Bulls. As it turns out, a lot. None of which concerns untimely turnovers, dumb penalties or a problematic passing game.
Recently USF researchers — after spending a year studying the Orlando Police Department — made public their significant findings about how body cameras assist police. Serious drops in complaints and the use of force were notable.
Within the same time frame, two anthropologists at USF St. Petersburg made history with the discovery of a 4,500-year-old skeleton that contained the first complete ancient African genome. And, BTW, USFSP is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. Not your basic regional university — as oceanographers already know.
Earlier this month Paul Sanberg, who discovered cell therapies that treat stroke and brain diseases, became the second USF faculty member admitted into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame. And speaking of inventions, the most recent report by the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association ranks USF first in Florida, 10th in the U.S. and 15th in the world for the number of patents secured.
No, it’s not the headline fodder that would have accompanied an upset win over FSU last month, but arguably a bit more important to mankind. And while USF isn’t ranked in either the AP or the Coaches Poll, it has now been ranked in the top 15 in worldwide patents for five straight years.
In fact, these are just the sort of high-profile achievements that induce philanthropists to dig deeper. To wit: Within the last year, USF has had an unprecedented run of particularly notable donations: Jordan Zimmerman, College of Arts and Sciences ($10 million); Lynn Pippinger, School of Accountancy ($10 million); Jeff Vinik, downtown, medical school real estate ($12 million); Les and Pam Muma, College of Business ($25 million); Kate Tiedemann, College of Business ($10 million); and Frank and Carol Morsani, College of Medicine ($20 million).
And when smart, successful people dig this deep, it’s more than a donation. It’s also an investment and de facto vote of confidence. Just ask Vinik, whose 10-figure downtown makeover would lose luster, allure and its centerpiece without the planned presence of the USF Morsani College of Medicine and USF Health Heart Institute.
And let’s not forget this: USF brought in a record $441 million in research dollars during the 2014-15 academic year. That contrasts to $171.3 million in 2000, President Judy Genshaft’s first year. Three-campus USF, now nearing an overall enrollment of 50,000, is solidly in the top 50 for research grants among public and private U.S. universities.
As President Genshaft put it in her annual fall address: “In a world where the single most important asset any community has is talent, any and all things you do to cultivate, grow, support and expand talents leads to a brighter future for people far beyond our campus boundaries.”
Amen. And go, Bulls. Beat Navy.